Catholic Relief Services, with funding from the US Department of Labor, and in partnership with AVSI Haiti is embarking on a new project. Let’s Work for Our Rights aims to reduce and prevent child labor in agriculture in Haiti. Let’s Work for Our Rights (LWR) will be implemented in the North and North East departments, and in the communities near official boarder areas with the Dominican Republic, including the North East, Center, West and South East departments.
Many children in Haiti are engaged in child labor, including domestic work and agriculture. There are an estimated 816,000 children and adolescents engaged in child labor, 34% of all 5 to 14 year olds. Because some parents are unable to care for their children, they send them to either orphanages or to live with relatives or strangers, who are expected to provide food, shelter and schooling for the children in exchange for housework. In some instances, these expectations are not met and children are not in school.
Often, these children become domestic workers and are victims of labor exploitation and abuse. Some children are trafficked both internally and to the Dominican Republic. Others are illegally recruited and fall into forced labor, which could include working in a home, in the fields, or on the streets.
Another challenge is posed by the lack of documentation, like birth certificates. Many Haitian children's births are not registered, and different natural disasters, like the 2010 earthquake, cause the loss of many other identification papers. This lack of documents makes it more difficult to protect children against Labor Code or Criminal Code violations, and for children to access social assistance services and educational programs from the Government.
Out-of-school children are at increased risk of engaging in child labor or of becoming victims of human trafficking. There is a lack of market-based skills and employment opportunities for youth and access to social protection services. This results in an insufficient protection of child and worker rights by the government, private sector and civil society.
The Haitian Government adopted the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law, which criminalizes all forms of human trafficking and contains provisions to prevent child trafficking and certain other forms of harmful child labor.
Haiti also created the Child Protection Working Group to coordinate efforts on child protection, specifically for children in domestic work. Moreover, Haiti ratified UN CRC Optional Protocols on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and Children in Armed Conflict.
Under this project, CRS with a consortium of five local partners including JURIMEDIA, Association of Volunteers International Service (AVSI), Collectif de Lutte Contre l’Exclusion Sociale (CLES), Haiti SURVIE and Services Jésuites aux Migrants (SJM) work to identify sustainable strategies for families and communities in order to respond to Child Labor, prevent it and help send children to school.
LWR seeks to reduce child labor and improve labor rights and working conditions in agriculture, including in the sugar sector, in Haiti through a comprehensive set of interventions that engages government, civil society, and the private sector in the protection of children and workers. It seeks to help households whose children are engaged in or at-risk of child labor and hazardous working conditions to attain sustainable livelihoods.
The project plans to reach 10,000 adults directly who will receive information about project services and labor rights, including child and worker labor rights. In addition, 2500 residents (children, adolescents, youth, and adults) will receive legal assistance in the form of processing of labor claims, MAST (Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor) dispute resolution support, and assistance to obtain identity documentation; 5000 residents (households, parents, and youth) will receive improved livelihoods opportunities based on comprehensive assessments of local markets, start-up of savings and internal lending groups (MUSO), and enterprise development and employment services; and 10,000 children and adolescents will be provided with facilitated/accompanied referrals and follow-up so that they gain access to and regularly attend formal and non-formal education.